After much anticipation, Thunder Road opened up their Brunswick brewery to the general public. Curious locals, punters and beer industry people alike turned out on a cold Melbourne spring day for the brewery’s unveiling. And what an impressive brewery it was too. Full of big gleaming stainless steel vats, a bar decked out with around 30 (!) taps, and a mini-museum of Australian beer collectibles, Thunder Road left the impression that no expense has been spared and that they are genuine about igniting the public’s passion for independent and locally-brewed beers.
The open day marked the launch of the Brunswick Bitter, a sparking ale that joined the Full Steam Lager and Montgomeries Pale Ale in Thunder Road’s lineup. All the beers were equally inoffensive and easy-to-drink. Full Steam, already making appearances at bars around town, is a light, clear lager with some honey sweetness on the finish. Montgomeries is a refreshing lightly hopped pale ale and the Brunswick Bitter is a golden-coloured beer with a more bitter finish.
I had to do a double take when I saw ‘brewed since 1876’ on the stylish Brunswick Bitter beer glass and found that Montgomeries similarly said ‘since 1884’. The explanation soon became clear. Thunder Road are reviving beer names from years past, not simply to make a pretty label either (read Squire, James), but to pay homage to brewers of the past and signal their intention to revive the old days of independent breweries creating beers for their local community.
There were 126 breweries in Victoria in 1871, but by the 1980s that number had dwindled to handfuls as the big corporations swallowed up breweries. Now that the craft beer movement is on the rise, this number is steadily rising. And what is particularly exciting about the advent of the Thunder Road brewery though is the scope of what they are trying to do. Rather than simply satisfying a niche of beer geeks, Thunder Road is trying to revive independent brewing and wrestle control back from the mega-corporations, by brewing beer for the community.
Thunder Road’s passion for beer and its history was most evident in The Keith Deutsher Library, a mini-museum of beer housed in a painstakingly restored historic cottage that connects to the brewery. The Library is full of rare beer collectibles and a library of beer books and magazines. Thunder Road founder Philip Withers called the place a “beer geek’s paradise”, and listening to him speak on the day, it was great to hear his passion and knowledge about beer history in Australia.
Thunder Road may not impress the beer geeks right away, as the three beers on offer were unadventurous, but for my part, I am very excited to see what this brewery can do and I think they will win over the beer geeks over time too. They have an amazing setup and a true passion for engaging the broader public on craft beer. Thunder Road are attempting to bring craft beer, not just to craft beer geeks, but to the community. It is an honourable mission and it will certainly be an exciting ride.